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The problem dealing with dealers...

Discussion in 'General Industry Questions' started by tom_groom, Mar 17, 2017.

  1. tom_groom

    tom_groom Member

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    Hey,

    I'm Tom, I'm a student at University of Illinois Chicago. I'm looking into the construction/heavy equipment world trying to find out some of the difficulties for people working in the industry.

    So we looked at Cat for example and saw the kind of attention they paid to the large customers (because it paid, right?) But saw the huge number of people who seemed neglected or un-engaged by them—the fact that people are on this forum teaching each other to fix things and how to do with out them is evidence enough of that. It seemed like those smaller companies that might need more help or support (even with small fixes or shorter length support) ended up receiving much less.

    So I was wondering if some of you out there would mind sharing your experience with Cat and Cat dealerships—how they could improve, what they don't address (specifically for mom and pop, small, and medium companies), and any services you think you could do with.

    Let me know if you think I should post this in a different part of the forum, I just figured you guys dealing with the machines might have some input also.

    Thanks
     
  2. check

    check Senior Member

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    Accountability is how they could improve.
     
  3. lantraxco

    lantraxco Senior Member

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    It isn't just CAT, it's human nature. Salesmen especially are all hypnotised by the pretty shiny things, the big deals that end up being beaten down to 2%.

    I worked at a Deere dealer in the early nineties (followed by a CAT dealer until 2002) and in one companywide parts/service meeting this very point was under discussion. The majority felt that you had to cater to the big customers and do whatever it took to keep them happy. One of the older and wiser gentlemen present made the point that at the end of the year the reports showed that the single biggest dollar volume customer by far was: CASH. All the little guys keep the dealers afloat, especially seeing as how they consume the least effort and typically get NO discounts or breaks anywhere. Dealers are usually disconnected from their customer base, and mother CAT is disconnected from it's dealer network. Wonder we get anything done at all.
     
    CM1995 and tom_groom like this.
  4. tbone1471

    tbone1471 Well-Known Member

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    I have had nothing but great service from cat. By far and away the best equipment dealer. We are a small operation and never buy new from them just parts and rentals.

    Case has been terrible. So much so that I wouldn't take one if it was given to me. I want nothing to do with them.

    I had a job 10 miles from a komatsu dealer and needed a dozer, called them offer to buy a used one or get a rental for a month. Never called me back. Called cat and was taken care of quick.

    Deere has been hit or miss. Right now I am pretty upset with them. . We spend most of our parts budget with them and I can barely get a call back. I needed a pair of forks last week of December still waiting on a call back. They have a 500$ core that was dropped off for when I picked up the new part. Told me that the credit will come right from deere. I said really and how do they know it's mine if I have a cash account? This was 4 months ago. I think this is going to be what causes us to switch to cat. They forgot to charge me for a few thousand in parts and as soon as it was brought to our attention it was verified and paid in 24 hours.

    We have mostly deere equipment but if screwing me out of 500 is that important to them there will be no more deere in our future.

    I don't think it has anything to do with brand. It is all about the dealer. Cat will get me rentals delivered in a day and deere wants to screw around for a week getting back to me.

    Deere, case, komatsu all have left me stranded when I needed something. Cat has always been there. I think it has more to do with the people and how eager they are to do a good job. In my market cat is the best.

    We have had similar problems with peterbilt. And a truck upfitter. Mack has been terrific.

    I really think it has everything to do with the employee not the brand.
     
  5. Junkyard

    Junkyard Senior Member

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    Overall it's been my experience Cat dealer networks seem to work the best regardless of company size. I've dealt with about 6 or 7 different Cat houses and several other brands with mulitiple locations. The Volvo dealer in tulsa sucks the sweat off a ....... The Komatsu dealer is good but dang they're proud of their parts!

    Our Pete dealer in Tulsa ranks right down there with the Volvo dealer. KW dealer kicks tail. All about management, corporate environment because that seems to trickle down to the face you see everyday. So I agree with above, it's not so much brand but people and management. One note I will add is Cat hands down has everybody else hammered on parts supply and network to get it where it needs to go. On top of that they do a good job of sharing technology. I think that's the key. Support support support. From the receptionist to the parts guy, back to the service manager and on up the chain.

    Our dealer does a good job of taking care of the small guys. Around here we outnumber the big guys 100-1. In the field is when you might get the shaft. If the big guys call they will pull their tech off your deal and send them to the fat cat.
     
    Last edited: Mar 18, 2017
  6. Jim D

    Jim D Senior Member

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    I'm a "mom and pop" sized business. I have no complaints about our Cat dealer. Cashman in Nevada is a huge mining and construction equipment dealer. Considering that I have second hand equipment, I don't expect the amount of attention that someone who has purchased new equipment from them gets.

    I have always been polite and very genial when I have talked to any of the dealer employees, and they have been very good to me. I always find some common interest to chit-chat about for a moment or two, and they seem to really care about what I need. I expect that if I acted like a big-shot, they would treat me the same way that I treat people who act like big-shots to me, in my business...
     
    nicky 68a and 1965IHdiesel like this.
  7. StumpyWally

    StumpyWally Senior Member

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    I've never owned or bought any Cat equipment, but when asking for info & quotes, my local Cat dealer (Milton Cat) has always been very responsive. I think it has to do both with the individuals at the dealer & the management culture which emphasizes customer service & responsiveness. They are the biggest equipment dealer in my area, but they don't make me, the little guy, feel neglected.

    My local New Holland dealer, who is orders of magnitude smaller, is also responsive, & it has to do with the individual people at the dealership.

    With all the other dealers in my area (Case, Deere, Kobelco/Kubota, JCB, Komatsu/Takakeuchi, Volvo, Bobcat), the responsiveness is hit or miss. I've had some luck with Case, JCB & Takakeuchi, lukewarm with Volvo, been neglected by Kubota & Deere, & have downright given up with Bobcat.
     
  8. movindirt

    movindirt Senior Member

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    In our area Cat and Deere have great dealer support, then again we pay our bills on time and don't give them any headaches. I've heard guys complain about different dealers and then hear that they have owed money to the dealer for a while. Point of my rambling is, usually if you treat someone how you would want to be treated you'll get top notch service.
     
    1965IHdiesel likes this.
  9. thepumpguysc

    thepumpguysc Senior Member

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    Our local Cat dealers are total jackwagons.. when they drop something off, they call 3x before the delivery driver makes it back to their shop.. They have that attitude like, do you know who we are??
    But when the shoe is on the other foot & I need specs for a cat pump.. it takes DAYS & multiple phone calls to get an answer..
     
  10. OFF

    OFF Senior Member

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    No mater what company/dealer, there are always good people and not so good people. When I find someone who's good and gives a sh1t about customer service, I stick with them. For a while (in my area anyway) the turn-over was so high, when you called a dealer you'd never get the same person on the phone twice. Always somebody new. Dealers need to realize that their people are their greatest asset - not that name on the side of the building. I will pay a little extra to deal with someone I can trust.

    I did say "a little extra". Dealerships will not - or are not allowed to use aftermarket parts even when they are available to them. In a lot of cases I've seen, this would mean a 50% saving on parts for the customer.

    It pains me greatly to pay $85 for each oil & fuel filter I buy for a new tier 4 engine. But until the patents come off and the filter companies start making them......the dealers bend us over. No mercy. We don't forget things like that.
     
  11. xr4ticlone

    xr4ticlone Well-Known Member

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    It's good reading it from the other side. I worked for a small (2 store mulit-brand) dealership for my first 6 years in the industry. It was a great experience and a great place to work. We had well funded & aggressive ownership as well as very good leadership. We were very responsive & key employees had authority to take care of business. They were bought up by a larger dealership group that destroyed all of that.

    I can tell you my perceptions of the industry as far as a sales rep (and why I'm not working for a dealership-and probably won't ever again). The group I loved working for was 'tractor guys' they understood the industry, they understood tractors, and they weren't afraid to get on one and get dirty. Heck, they loved it like I still do. I grew up on a farm and diesel is in my blood.

    BUT every one of these places has grown in to big dealer groups. They don't know their employees or what they do. They don't trust anyone to make a decision or a deal...leaving customers feeling forgotten or not appreciated. **When they don't call back it's because they're waiting on a middle or upper manager to say 'YES or NO' - it's not personal. I would wait for up to 2-3 WEEKS for trade numbers. Believe it or not they came from the OWNER of a 23 location dealership group.

    We now have all these little MBA weasels who aren't tractor people. They look at spreadsheets...I've got a degree, sold commercial software, and before that I worked as an investment broker...it's not that I can't do that. BUT that's not this business, or at least it wasn't. These people really bring nothing to the table except cost cutting and figuring out ways to screw over the employees and customers. My former employer is about lose 1/2 of their sales force....probably more out of their new pay plan. It's why you see and endless barrage of people come and go from these places.

    Everyone assumes that their database means they don't need to pay anyone anymore. They can find you now, cell phones, emails, addresses. It's easy. They may have your wife's name, your kids birthdays, and all the equipment you own (that someone put in the system) anyone can take that data and be your new BFF right? ;) The parts guys have a computer to do it all...they don't need to know tractors. :) Like I told a guy today in the industry when a major area customer called me while we were talking. "That was X, everyone in town knows X & his family business. Heck you can have his cell phone # if you like. But he's not talking to you, he's not buying a tractor from you. You're not his 'guy'...and neither is anyone with my former employer." A few of them need to go broke with this model first.

    But it seems like right now the attitude of the dealers here is 'if we all suck it won't matter'.

    As for big vs small, there isn't any money in the huge deals. BUT manufactures have made EVERYTHING about 'market share' and one big company buying 40 or even 100 machines is impossible to overcome. And yes, I have a customer who just bought 150 pieces of large iron last month. Sadly not from me. They even joke about it 'X dealer will never do this deal again. They'll regret this one' But when the manufactures only care about market share it doesn't matter. You'll never make up for those units selling 1 or 2 here and there.
     
  12. CM1995

    CM1995 Super Moderator

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    This topic comes up often and it's nice to see real life experiences instead of blanket brand wars.

    We are a small operation and run mostly Cat with the exception of 1 Bobcat and a Gradall. My Cat dealer has been very good to me because I have a good long standing relationship with them. I pay my bills on time and when something goes awry, which is inevitable, I don't jump up and down and raise hell like some of the ones I know.

    The relationship one has with their dealer from the salesman to the parts guy and the warehouse guy that pulls your parts is key - doesn't matter the brand. Humans are the wild card in this "who is better dealership" game.

    4 years ago I was looking to buy a 320 sized hoe and my dealer had a sale at one of the larger rental stores, completed with free lunch and all that jazz. I went and looked over several of the 320's and 315's they had on the market. None really fit what I wanted for the price or condition.

    My salesman later told me that the used equipment sales manager blew his phone up after I left, telling him I was a "hot prospect". He told the sales manager that he knew his customer and when I was ready to buy I would call him. A month or so later I had a used 321 on rental purchase that we converted and will pay off this year.

    That is the kind of relationship you want with your dealer and your salesman. I don't waste my salesman's time unless I'm ready to purchase. No demo'ing multiple machines only to send them back or have him price up 13 different options. I do my research on what's out there well in advance and when the time comes to buy, make the call and a machine is delivered the next day.

    Just my $.02 of rambling on the subject.
     
    old-iron-habit, movindirt and bam1968 like this.
  13. xr4ticlone

    xr4ticlone Well-Known Member

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    CM1995 - excellent point. "BUT YOU NEED TO GET HIM TO BUY THIS!!"

    It's why every good sales manager I've ever had still have their own customers. If you don't actually sell anymore (or you never did) it's easy to tell sales reps stupid things to do.
     
  14. truckdoctor

    truckdoctor Well-Known Member

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    Occupation:
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    reno nevada
    Talking from the dealer side, we have had trouble keeping customers happy because we haven't been able to get to them fast enough. We are understaffed in field service. It has been a two week lead to get to someone that calls. We can't find new mechanics in our area and the older field hands are wanting out of the truck. It has caused some serious heartburn for everyone.
     
  15. xr4ticlone

    xr4ticlone Well-Known Member

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    This is an industry problem that's not going away. I attribute it to our labor laws for kids and the disapearence of farm & ranch population.

    You look at great mechanics &. operators and 99% were farm / ranch kids or grew up working with their dads as mechanics.

    You can't teach 18-22 year olds from scratch how to do these things. Was with a customer (good buddy) yesterday that's reached out & helped several young kids from bad homes (he has ranch & construction biz) and his current project (17 yo kid that was homeless) almost got the pickup stuck putting feed in his shop- then pushed in 4 foot of the bottom of the bed on an air compressor hitch as he was trying to get out.

    'That's the one truck I have that didn't have body damage!' *

    He had pulled up in a tight spot and tried to turn around instead of backing up to the door. Kid has no experience backing up a pickup at 17 to feel confident to do it up an incline between objects. He's learning, but he's starting from scratch.

    *I once told him I knew he was on a job because I saw his company trucks there. He looked at me funny as his trucks have no signs. "Yea, white, standard cab, Ford F-250 7.3l diesel with moderate to severe body damage & loaded to the gills with ****".

    I've found several of them for him over the years. Whenever I see one with him I'll ask- want me to leave a card on it asking if it's for sale? He doesn't even have business cards, but he's very sucessful & made millions as a contractor. He can literally do anything, even has a masters in mechanical engineering.
     
  16. lantraxco

    lantraxco Senior Member

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    Don't know your current situation so don't take this as a blanket criticism of all dealers, but at the dealers I worked at and dealt with I often spoke up about the need to hire apprentices and assign them to work hand in hand with the older mechanics, especially those approaching retirement. Always a resounding "NO!, One man one job!". It's the accountant's approach to business, don't spend any money on recruitment and training, let somebody else do that and then poach employees. Well guess what? When all the businesses cut costs and expect to hire thirty year olds with twenty years experience at half the going rate, it kinda creates, well what we got now. You take a young guy that's interested, bring him in at a wage that can support the young family he's starting, have him work with techs that have twenty or thirty years in the bag. The old wrench will keep an eye on the young lion, hopefully steer him clear of major fubars while imparting some wisdom and helpful hints, and the old guy will find motivation in not letting that young punk outdo him. The simple idea of crosschecking will probably reduce the comeback rate by half. YMMV, patented Lanway school of hard knocks theory.
     
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  17. Welder Dave

    Welder Dave Senior Member

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    "The relationship one has with their dealer from the salesman to the parts guy and the warehouse guy that pulls your parts is key - doesn't matter the brand. Humans are the wild card in this "who is better dealership" game."

    This is the key 100%. My dad was the most respected in his industry because he knew his stuff and bent over backwards for his customers. That's why he had many great, not only business relationships but personal friendships with his customers. They knew he had their best interests in mind. He'd go to see them just to say hi knowing they weren't planning on buying anything. On the other hand if customers tried to take advantage of him, they wouldn't get the same level of service as his long term customers. He treated everybody the same but try to mess with him and you won't get the extra perks a good salesman/dealer can provide. One customer on a new golf course was demoing machines on the course before it was open. No problem, some they had for up to 3 weeks. Then it became very apparent the customer was demoing all kinds of different machines from all the dealers and wasn't showing much interest in buying anything. I think in most cases customers demo comparable machines at the same time to see which they prefer. This golf course was demoing different machines and trying to get through the first summer (before opening) without having to buy anything. Oh, they would still get machines to demo but they would be dropped off on Friday and picked up on Monday!

    Another golf course put out a tender for about $200,000 worth of equipment. They said they would buy from my dad if he threw in 2 walk behind mowers ((approx. $1000). My dad told them they should have put them on the tender as he had gave them the best price he could on what they were looking for. He likely could have thrown one in the deal, maybe both but the customer was asking after the fact. That's not how a (good) customer/salesman relationship works. It's different if it's an attachment you're not sure you want/need but at least mentioning you might be interested leaves an option to include it on a quote. The customer knew the owner of the company my dad worked for and said he'd call him up and ask him if he could throw in the 2 walk behind mowers. As soon as my dad got off the phone with him, he called the owner of the company and said so and so is going to call you, "You realize if you throw the 2 mowers in, I'm walking out the door"! The owner said we can't have that, you're our top salesman. The owner also mentioned they could lose the sale. My dad said that's fine, I don't deal like that. 2 weeks later they got the sale. I asked my dad why and he said they wanted the brand I was selling. My dad was pretty humble about things (most people who are very good at what they do are) but I think the customer also knew of his reputation and the dealers in the industry.

    In my own experience, when I was looking at skid steers, I looked at them all and was interested in one made in Canada. I liked the salesman but in the meantime I looked at other brands too. Case and Bobcat especially, spent more time bashing other brands than telling me what makes their machines so great. They said we'll have better trade in value and we sell the most, et., etc. My dad said it's up to me but he wouldn't buy from a dealer who bashes other brands. They all have their good and bad points. You haven't bought anything yet and they're already talking about trade in value? I bought the Canadian machine because it had some features I liked better and the salesman(fairly new dealership) was so much better. Fast forward a couple years and all of a sudden I have a different salesman because I'm not in his territory anymore! I had a great relationship with my original salesman and he still remembers me as he now works for a different dealer. The service from the dealer started getting worse and worse after they started to make some money. They eventually went out of business. Not a surprise to me. I talked to one of the mechanics that worked there and he said most employee's never got their last 3 month's of pay. Even worse the owner was deducting pay from their coffee breaks for the last 6 month's because they were 15 minutes and the employment standards says they only need to be 10 minutes!!!! WOW! This dealer also had the Kubota AG and construction lines and ran everything into the ground while all the other dealers were thriving.

    Sorry for the long post. Maybe it will help buyers and dealers understand a little better about how important it is to have good relationships with those you deal with. Treat them the way you want to be treated.
     
    Last edited: Apr 9, 2017
  18. check

    check Senior Member

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    I worked as a mechanic for an oil company who did just as you suggest. For the most part, the results were poor. I only needed a helper ten minutes out of each hour and the rest of the time he was a burden and distraction. If the recruits were of higher caliber and if the mechanics had teaching skills (I didn't), things may have been better. I think the answer is simply more pay. If the pay were higher, young people would fill the jobs of less experienced mechanics as they move up to more demanding jobs and the old mechanics would stay longer.

    The problem with my "more pay" solution is that the feedback loop is too slow and by the time you run out of qualified mechanics you find out it takes 5 years for higher pay to get results.
    If companies and agencies used more common sense they could avoid this problem. You look at many truck and bus fleets and see 85 IQ drivers making the same pay as their mechanics when common sense dictates that it takes much longer to get a mechanic trained to the point that he fixes more than he tears up than it does to train a driver.

    I did mechanic work for 21 years and the first 6 years were very low pay, the last 15 years were top pay. I stuck with the low pay gambling that the experience would pay off.
     
    Last edited: Apr 9, 2017
  19. lantraxco

    lantraxco Senior Member

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    Yep, that sounds about right. The thing is a dealer shop is a totally different world to a contractor or logging outfit (I know, I came out of a construction contractor background) in that workflow is much better regulated and scheduling can be done to alleviate some of those issues. I am totally in agreement that the pay increases need to happen much quicker at the lower end, would slow down some of the retainment issues. Quite common at dealers to see lots of entry level and a group of gray hair, some of which are coasting to retirement hoping their bodies hold out. The middle group all left to seek the big money and unlimited overtime out in the real world, some drift back later when priorities change, or they tire of the economic cycles. The other thing is, most good mechanics are much better with iron than people, tend to be lone wolves, and don't usually play well with others, so out there in the real world it's tough as you say to pair people up and expect harmony.
     
    check likes this.
  20. xr4ticlone

    xr4ticlone Well-Known Member

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    This goes all the way to manufactures as well. Talked to one last week that commented that all their best people are 45 yo-70 yo & they don't see the new guys with the drive, ambition, or willingness to become leaders.

    On the other side I hear employers complain about available help pools. Then I see them fire top people to replace them with younger, inexperienced help for less money.

    What most mean is they'd love to have top people at low pay.